Making Dollars and Sense of Copyright on YouTube

YouTube Content ID

YouTube is becoming more important to the music community both in terms of marketing and revenue as well as sharing and engagement. The platform is often confused as being solely a video player. However, as YouTube grows and channel creators become more ambitious, relationships are becoming the driving force of this video machine. The traffic controller in this system is YouTube’s Content ID.

Content ID is what dictates copyright ownership and monetization around YouTube. For bands, this is what turns YouTube into a store. YouTube differs from every other digital retailers in that its core functionality depends on user generated content (UGC). This is excellent for sharing and community around the platform, but also opens the flood gates to copyrighted material and piracy (songs, music videos, movies, etc.). Without rightful ownership, the proper owner doesn’t get credit and compensation for the work. That’s where Content ID comes in.

Content ID uses technology similar to Shazam. The system takes pre-loaded audio files from bands and labels and compares them with other videos in the system. If there is a video on YouTube that has audio or visual content that matches this reference, Content ID makes a claim. This gives the copyright owner a chance to claim the content as theirs and monetize if they choose. Here’s how it works for both players in the Content ID loop:


Sharing is a powerful tool in the music community. New bands rely on people sharing their music to expand the potential audience. However, they would prefer to get paid for unofficial uses of their music (if users can hear your songs on YouTube for free, why would they buy the album?). Content ID provides the best of both worlds in that it still allows YouTubers to use your music in their videos, but your band makes money from the ads that Content ID places on this video. Win win!

Official Video:


Fans use popular copyrighted material in their YouTube videos for many reasons (and it’s not necessarily malicious pirating). In most cases, these users are legitimate, diehard fans that love the music their using. These are the best kinds of fans for bands. You have passionate, genuinely engaged users creating content for you (for free!). Why not keep it coming? By using Content ID to find these UGC videos, you can automatically track who is using your material and monetize it if you choose. Win win… win!

YouTuber (Unofficial) Video:

So, how do you start using Content ID? Well, for specific legal and financial reasons, YouTube is extremely specific on who it allows into this system (mostly record labels and distributors… like The Orchard!). This is best for everybody in ensuring that Content ID claims are made correctly. For that reason, the best way to get involved is to reach out to your label or distributor to opt in. With over 72 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, there is a ton of opportunity to get your content involved!

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